What is interesting about this case is that initially, the head of the refugee organization where Arian handed himself over to said that he had gone missing for a month. This prompted many to believe that the Iranian colonel had followed the same path as Asgari, and had been “kidnapped” by the Mossad or the CIA. However, a day after the initial report the report was corrected and the refugee authorities in the city of Van said that he had been found again.
This new development is likely to lead to a new shake-up in Iran’s intelligence apparatus. These defections show that senior officials are not being monitored in an effective manner. More importantly, they show that the level of dissatisfaction inside military circles is reaching new highs, which means that as well as defections, more people inside Iran may be encouraged to cooperate with Western intelligence agencies.
Iran will have to tread a fine line in this case. Relations with Turkey are very important for Tehran, both economically and politically. With Tehran becoming isolated, any damage caused in Tehran-Ankara relations will be to the benefit of the U.S. and Israel. On the other hand, Turkish authorities seem to be playing host to defectors from Iran, thus making the country a top destination for whoever wants to escape and to cause damage to Iran’s military apparatus. And what is even more interesting is that Turkey is not the only neighbor which seems to be playing a double game. Iranians are concerned about what they see as rise of CIA activity in the republic of Azerbaijan, and in Dubai where hundreds of thousands of Iranians live and work. This is in addition to an increase in anti-Iran intelligence activities by neutral countries such as Holland, which according to Dutch media has become successful in recruiting agents inside Iran. This truly is a dangerous phenomenon. Iranians who are against the government may still have ideological problems working for the U.S., Israel, or Arab countries, due to historical animosities. However, a country such as Holland with whom Iran has had no differences could resolve that problem by recruiting the agent, and then sharing intelligence with other countries. Or worst, American or Israeli agents may recruit Iranian agents by fooling them into believing that they are working for another more “neutral” country.
The fact that Barack Obama has offered to talk directly with Iran does not mean that the intelligence war between the two sides is over. In fact, the opposite is true. To conduct meaningful negotiations, the U.S. will have to rely on increased volume and quality of intelligence. The same goes for Tehran. The Iranian government will most probably be upping the tempo in its efforts to recruit its own agents. If its successes in Lebanon and Iraq are anything to go by, Western counterintelligence agencies will have their work cut out.